Baitul Futuh Mosque, Morden
Surrey Heritage staff visit the largest purpose-built mosque in Western Europe.
Eight lucky members of staff from Surrey Heritage have had the opportunity to tour the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden. The visit had been arranged by members of the Woking branch of the Ahmadiyya Community, including Mr. Hameed Ahmed (Woking President), Mr Ahmad Syed, and his daughter Monevra Syed. As part of Surrey Heritage’s ongoing commitment to community engagement, Collections Development Archivist Di Stiff has been working with the Ahmadiyya community to ensure they are reflected in the archive collections at Surrey History Centre.
The mosque, built for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, is the largest purpose-built mosque in Western Europe and is situated on London Road (A24). The 5.2-acre site was once occupied by the Express Dairy’s bottling plant with its own railway sidings. The Dairy site was derelict when the Ahmadiyya Community purchased it for £2.3m in 1996. Although some hostility was received to the building of the mosque, planning permission was granted and the late Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (the fourth Khalifa) laid the foundation stone on 19 October 1999. This fascinating and beautiful building was then opened on 3 Oct 2003.
An astonishing building
Our engaging tour guide for the morning was Mr. Waleed and the mosque solicitor, Mr Imran Uddin Ahmedi, joined us for lunch. We were treated to a first-rate tour and wowed with facts and figures relating to this amazing construction.
The mosque cost around £15m to build, all of the funds being raised through donations from the Ahmadiyya community. Berkshire-based architects, Sutton, Griffin and Morgan, had the task of designing the structure, guided closely by the mosque’s construction committee. The mosque stands with a huge shimmering silver dome, with walls clad in 2000 square metres of specially formulated reconstituted Italian marble, designed to withstand the vagaries of the British weather and be self-cleaning. The entrance features huge decorative glass panels and a water feature. The environmentally-friendly construction of the building has also won it a prestigious Green award.
Inside the prayer halls there is a wonderful sense of calm and magnificent acoustics. The central dome in the Men’s Prayer Hall spans nearly 16m and contains over 11km of support timbers; it is decorated with beautiful silver calligraphy praising Allah. And it wasn’t just the staff of Surrey Heritage that thought the building something special; recently, it was voted one of the ‘Top 50 Buildings in the World’ by Spectator magazine.
Parts of the existing derelict dairy building were renovated and incorporated into the design, in particular the Women’s and Men’s halls. The old chimney was cleverly converted into a 35m tall minaret, allowing a taller structure than planning regulations would otherwise have permitted. The whole site capacity is around 14,000 with worshipping capacity at around 4,000.
The mosque complex is a focal point for social and religious events, offering conference facilities, a gymnasium, auditoriums, a TV studio, a creche, and dining facilities. Events ranging from Eid celebrations to student career seminars are held on site and organizations such as Merton College and the Police have already made use of the varied facilities.
The Aftab Khan Library and Khilafat Centenary Gallery
Opened in 2005, the mosque library houses a large collection of religious and other works. This was a real treat for everyone (especially the archivists and librarians among us!) and we pored over the many beautifully bound and skillfully decorated volumes. Many of the volumes are translations of the Qur’an, or publications interpreting the holy book of Islam. Efforts are being made by the librarian to acquire a larger collection of works relating to other religions and it is hoped that the library will become a centre for religious study, not only to students from the local area but far and wide.
Attached to the library is the Khilafat Centenary Gallery, a lovely, light, airy space which contains an attractive exhibition detailing the history of Islam and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The Community was founded by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadian, India, in March 1889. Among the many exhibits was a beautifully carved wooden gate of the Mogul period, thought to be four hundred year’s old, and a stunning Islamic carved wooden plaque. A large and fascinating collection of framed photographs chronicle important events in the Community’s history.
‘Love for all, hatred for none’
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has branches all over the UK and has peacefully co-existed here for nearly a century. The first overseas mission of the Ahmadiyya Community was established in the UK in 1913, based at the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, Europe’s oldest purpose-built mosque, constructed in 1889. Following a split in the Community, the Fazl or London Mosque, the first of example in London, was built in 1924 in Southfields, entirely from funds provided by the ladies section of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Archive footage of the opening of the Fazl Mosque was taken by British Pathe.
The Community is keen that both the Fazl and Baitul Futuh Mosques are part of British Muslim culture and heritage They welcome worshippers of any denomination, as well as visitors on Heritage Open Days and Islam Awareness Week. The community has set-up a Liaison Group, which comprises local councillors, residents associations, schools & colleges, church leaders and representatives of other local organizations.
Further images, click on any of the thumbnails to see a larger version (Photographs by D Stiff).
There is also an Ahmadiyya section to Brookwood Cemetery (Plot 101) http://www.brookwoodcemetery.com/muslim-burial-grounds/ahmadiyya-burial-ground/
Each year, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community hold their Jalsa Salana or annual convention, at Oaklands Farm, Alton, Hampshire. The convention is a unique event in the community’s calendar and is the largest of its kind in the UK, bringing together 30,000 participants from more than 50 countries to increase religious knowledge and promote a sense of peace and brotherhood. Click here to read more.